Fattal's Friends Hope the U.S. Hiker Gets Freed - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Fattal's Friends Hope the U.S. Hiker Gets Freed

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Hope For U.S. Hiker Josh Fattal's Freedom

    For 774 days, Elkins Park native Josh Fattal has been held in an Iranian prison, accused of spying. Now, in a surprise move, Iran's President says Fattal and fellow prisoner, Shane Bauer, may both be released by week's end. (Published Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011)

    Josh Fattal's family in Elkins Park, Montgomery County, Pa. is hanging on hope again -- that Fattal and fellow U.S. hiker Shane Bauer could be released from an Iranian prison within two days if $500,000 bail is posted for each.

    "So this is the first time we've heard that they're going to be released and that they've put a time frame on it," said Joe Boxman, who has known Fattal since the two were in grade school.

    Boxman is one of thousands who joined freethehikers.org when Fattal, Shane Bauer and Sarah Shourd were imprisoned in Iran. The three friends were captured crossing the Iraq-Iran border in July, 2009 and charged with spying.

    Shourd was released a year ago on humanitarian grounds.

    Last month, Bauer and Fattal were sentenced to eight years in prison. That's why friends and family were so surprised when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told NBC's Ann Curry on Tuesday that he was arranging the release of Fattal and Bauer -- in a couple of days.

    "Well it's just a huge relief," said Boxman. "When we found out about the eight year sentence, that was probably the lowest that we've been through this whole time. It was a huge punch in the gut at the time, which is why the cautious optimism at this point."

    On Facebook, the family wrote: 

    At Cheltenham High School where Fattal was once student body president, the principal is hoping they will finally be able to stop marking the days of imprisonment, which on Tuesday reached 774.

    "Each day that they were in captivity, it was just our feeling that we wanted to make it remain alive in the community, so we don't forget," said Dr. Elliott Lewis.

    Boxman has been marking the days by creating a special photo album for Fattal and waits for word that he's really coming home.

    "That's the first question I'm asking, 'Where are we having the party?'"

    A U.S. State Department spokesman tells us that they are watching these reports and are in touch with Swiss counterparts in Iran and are waiting to hear more about plans for a possible release.